The Very Worst Dad Jokes We Could Find from the 1970s

‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ ended every show with a dad joke
The Very Worst Dad Jokes We Could Find from the 1970s

Your dad didn’t invent the dad joke. Neither did his dad. The dad joke — the hokey set-up and punchline that aim to make listeners groan in comic pain — has been around a helluva long time. The 1970s, from its stand-up comedy to its corny sitcoms, was a golden era of awful jokes, told by the most beloved comics of the time. Here are some of the very worst the decade had to offer… 

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The King of 1970s Dad Jokes was Gabe Kotter, the stand-in father for the underachieving Sweathogs on the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. While he entertained the juvenile delinquents with smart-ass asides in class, he saved the actual dad jokes for his wife Julie, who dutifully supplied the straight-man responses at the close of every show. (The pained look on her face tells you all you need to know about the inevitable divorce that would have come in Season Five.)

GABE: I had an uncle. His name was Sidney. Big gambler. One night, he was sleeping and he sees a big number five in his dreams. Number five. Big. So he wakes up that morning and says, ‘Wow, I had a premonition!’ Goes to the track, takes the fifth bus to the track, goes up to the fifth window. He bets $5 on number 5.

JULIE: What happened?

GABE: It worked! The horse came in fifth!

GABE: Did I ever tell you when I was young I always thought I was adopted?

JULIE: No! Really?

GABE: My parents never said anything. So one day I decided, “Just go up and ask.”

JULIE: Good for you.

GABE: The day I graduated from Buchanon, I went right up to my father. Had my diploma in my hand, I looked him straight in the eye, I said, “Ling Chow, was I adopted?” (unfortunate Chinese accent) “You not adopted, you rented!”

Milt Josefsberg was a comedy writer who penned scripts for 1970s classics like All in the FamilyLaverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. In his book, Comedy Writing for Television and Hollywood, he offers these ‘70s dad jokes as great how-tos:

JOHNNY CARSON: I read an article in the news that said the Navy paid $660 each for ashtrays. A few months earlier, the Pentagon paid over $800 each for toilet seats. I guess the price depends on where you want to put your butt. 

Another example of the prototypical Carson dad joke of the ‘70s:

CARSON: Gosh, it was rainy today. 

AUDIENCE: How rainy was it?

CARSON: Well, my roof was leaking, and I finished the same bowl of soup three times.

Even the era’s sex jokes play like corny dad jokes. Here’s an example from an episode of All in the Family with newlyweds Mike and Gloria reminiscing about their first date:

MIKE: Remember — I took you to a baseball game. 

GLORIA: Yes, and you tried to score before the game started. 

The oft-profane Friars’ Roasts of the 1970s could descend into dad joke land as well, depending on the roaster. When playwright Neil Simon was on the hot seat in 1978, Henny Youngman did his groan-worthy act instead of insulting the guest of honor:

  • “Two guys meet. One says, ‘What’s the latest dope on Wall Street?’ The other guy says, ‘My son.’”
  • “I like New York better than California. You get paid three hours earlier here.”
  • “My wife lost all her credit cards. I’m not gonna report it; the guy who found them spends less than she does.” 

Haven’t had quite enough? Take us out, Gabe, with a story about your Uncle Socrates Kotter:

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